16.29: Building Trust

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler

How do we build trust with our readers? What does that even mean? In this episode we discuss ways in which we let our readers know what they can expect from the book they’re holding, and how we set about getting the to trust us do deliver on those expectations.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

Play

Write down every character in your first chapter on an index card. Write each character’s wants and needs? Ask yourself what stakes can be put on screen now.

The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
NOTE: We’ll be talking about the first page of this book next week, so you may want to add at least page one of this book to your homework.

16.28: Common First-Page Mistakes

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler

Let’s have a frank, and possibly painful discussion about the ways in which the first page can go wrong. It may seem like hackneyed writing advice, but rules like “don’t start with the main character waking up” are rules for a reason.  In this episode we’ll talk about those reasons, and why it’s so unlikely for books which break them to succeed with readers.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

Play

Have a look at the first page of your work-in-progress, and look for clichéd mistakes.

The First Line (literary magazine)

16.27: Nobody Wants to Read a Book

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler

Our controversial episode title comes to us via John Schwarzwelder, and it points up nicely the importance of today’s topic, which is first lines, first pages, and how we set about convincing people (who may or may not want to read a book) to read OUR book.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

Play

Homework: read the first pages of the last three books you read. Take notes on what you find exciting about them. What kept you reading? What would make you pause?

The Last Watch, by J.S. Dewes

16.26: Working With Teams

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, Cassandra Khaw, Dan Wells, James L. Sutter, and Howard Tayler

Our series of game writing episodes draws to a close with a discussion about working with teams. This last skill set, these ways in which you learn to excel at collaborative projects, is often far more important than any of your other skills.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

Play

Spend some time brainstorming a game idea with a friend. Try to draw out and explore their best ideas, and encourage them to suggest changes to your own, to make sure you’re both contributing equally.

Heart: The City Beneath RPG, by Grant Howitt & Christopher Taylor

16.25: Breaking Into Game Writing

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, Cassandra Khaw, Dan Wells, James L. Sutter, and Howard Tayler

So, after all this talk about designing games and writing for games, it’s time to address the big question: how does one go about getting a game-design/game-writing job?

It’s a competitive field, and there are no easy answers, but we do have some hard answers for you. And some homework…

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

Play

Brainstorm something short you could make to showcase your skills—could even be the homework from a previous lesson—then make that thing and post it online for free.

Dread, because the mechanic is so simple and creates such perfect tension.

16.24: Worldbuilding for Games

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, Cassandra Khaw, Dan Wells, James L. Sutter, and Howard Tayler

Worldbuilding is one of our favorite topics, and it’s a domain in which game design and novel writing share a lot of territory. In this episode we talk about how much we love it, and how much we enjoy letting other people love it enough to do the heavy lifting for us.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

Play

Take a story or game that you’ve written and drop in a few casual allusions to names you’ve just made up—places, people, objects. Don’t try to figure out what they are, just make the names as cool-sounding as you can—soultrees, the Babbling Throne, Kobishar the Unmoored. Then come back a week later and write a page of background on each of them.

The Dune RPG, from Modipheus Games

BONUS EPISODE! 2021 WXR Early-Bird Announcement

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Dongwon, and Dan

What’s this bonus episode thing?

Well, for starters IT’S URGENT, because as of this writing you have just ten more days to get the promised pricing for WXR at sea in 2021.

What ELSE is it? Well, this bonus episode describes the difference between workshops, retreats, and master classes. If you’ve attended WXR in the past, this episode will highlight what’s different this time around.

 

Play

Research different opportunities for master classes and workshops.

The Sin in the Steel, by Ryan Van Loan

16.23: Rules and Mechanics

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, Cassandra Khaw, Dan Wells, James L. Sutter, and Howard Tayler

Let’s talk about how players interact with the mechanics of the game, and what kinds of requirements those might put on the writers.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

Play

Pick a game you’re familiar with and design three new rules elements for it. These could be new cards for Magic, new feats or character abilities for a TTRPG, new power-ups for Super Mario, etc.
Try to think through all the ways these could be fun, and then try to find ways a player could use them to totally break a story.

Disco Elysium